Transposing for the G-Mountain Ocarina

If you look around the web, you'll find lots of sites that have sheet music + accompanying midis. If you've ever tried to play your G-Mountain ocarina (GMO) with one of those midis, you quickly found out that your GMO was out of key with the midi. That's because you almost certainly learned to play your GMO as a transposing instrument, meaning that when you finger a "low C" on your GMO (covering both thumb holes, all the right holes and all but the last left hole), you are actually playing a "G."  A piano (or midi file), by contrast, is a nontransposing instrument. When you play a "C" on the piano, it's really a "C" and so would sound in key accompanying the midi you found on the web. To play your GMO in key with a nontransposing instrument, you either have to learn different (nontransposing) fingering so that the GMO sounds a real "C" when you finger one or you have to alter the sheet music or midi file so that you see a "C" when the midi or piano plays a "G."

There are many places to get an informed discussion of transposition theory. Karl Ahrens's book, "Favorite Carols in Easy Keys," has a discussion of transposition for the G-Mountain Ocarina, the fingering for a GMO played as a nontransposing instrument, as well as side-by-side pages showing music for favorite carols played on a GMO as a transposing vs. a nontransposing instrument.

However, *this* page is written for people like me who are fairly clueless when it comes to music theory, can't yet wrap their brains around the nontransposing fingering, and just want to "fix" music they've found so it can be played on their GMO played with the "usual" (transposing) fingering. I break down the situations I've had to deal with into the following categories:
  • The sheet music is mostly OK, but a few of the notes can't be played on the GMO (usually too high, sometimes too low). See Case 1.
  • I have the music as sheets or in abc format and a backing track or the midi I generated from the .abc file and I need sheets for the GMO so it will sound in key when accompanying the midi (or other nontransposing instrument). See Case 2 if you have an abc file, Case 2a if you have only sheets.
  • I already play a piece on my (transposing) GMO. I have sheets and/or an abc file and need a midi to play alongside, e.g., as a round. Or, I want to have sheets so that someone playing a nontransposing instrument can accompany me. Or, I am learning the nontransposing G-oc fingerings and need to convert my sheets so that they show the true note I'm playing. Or, I have a backing track, but it's out of key. See Case 3a if you have a complex backing track, otherwise Case 3.
  • The music fits the range of my GMO (one octave + four notes including all the sharps and flats), but it's a pain to play all those sharps (or flats).  Or, the music spans less than an octave + four notes, but a lot or most of the notes are too high or too low to be played on the GMO. See Case 4.

Case 1.  The music is mostly OK, but a few notes can't be played on the GMO. This can be relatively easy to fix. Just drop/raise the problem notes by an octave, experimenting until you get something that sounds good. This approach works a lot, but not all, of the time.

Case 2.  I have the music in abc format and a backing track or the midi I generated from the .abc file and I need sheets that make the GMO play in tune with the midi.  The "official" (nontransposing) range of a GMO is F#, G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, A, B + all the sharps and flats in-between.  Ideally, your original music should have all its notes in this range.

Official Range of GMO

Figure 1. Official (nontransposing) range of G-Mountain ocarina

Go to In the "Transpose" section, choose "Down 7 Semitones" as shown in the orange box here*, and click "Submit."  If your result has notes out of the "official" transposing GMO range ("low B" to "high E"), you will have to make adjustments, such as raising or lowering problem notes by an octave. (*We owe huge thanks to the mandolintab folks, who agreed to host folkinfo's abc converter after the later site shut down.)

When your music is in abc format, it's also reasonably easy to use this site to *raise* the pitch of music whose range starts an octave lower than the official nontransposing range of the GMO.

starting on ocatave below
Figure 2. Starting one octave below official nontransposing range of GMO

In the "Transpose" section of the Mandolintab converter, choose "Up 5 Semitones" and click "Submit."

Case 2a.  I have the sheets and a backing track for a nontransposing instrument and I want to play the same tune on the GMO and have it sound in key.  Ideally, the original music is within the official range of the GMO (Figure 1).  If the piece is short and you're comfortable writing music in abc format, you could rewrite the sheet in abc format and use the Mandolintab converter as above.

If you can't write abc formatted music or it's too tedious to do so for your particular sheet, try this:

First, delete (e.g. white-out) the bottom two (red) lines of the staff and add two (blue) lines to the top of the staff.
Draw staff lines
Figure 3.

Next, find the key of your original music on this chart, (which is called a Circle of Fifths). Moving in a counterclockwise direction, select the key next to it to get the new key for your (transposing) GMO. For example, if the key of your original music for the nontransposing instrument is D, the new key for the (transposing) GMO will be G.
Circle of Fifths
Figure 4. Circle of Fifths
Click image to enlarge in new window.
   Example 1    Example 2
 Transpose example 3
 Transpose example 1
Nontransposing instrument
Original key = C
Nontransposing instrument
Original key  = F
 Transpose example 4
Transpose example 2
 (Transposing) GMO key = F   (Transposing) GMO key = B-flat

Again, if notes in the result fall outside the GMO's range, you can experiment with moving notes up or down an octave as necessary.

Case 3.  My original sheet is for (transposing) GMO and I need a midi or sheet music for a nontransposing instrument that will be in key with what I'm playing on the GMO.  Or, I am learning the nontransposing GMO fingerings and I need to convert my original sheet for transposing GMO to a sheet for nontransposing GMO. Case 3 is the reverse of Cases 2 and 2a. If you have an .abc file, paste it into the Mandolintab converter and choose "Up 7 Semitones" in the "Transpose" section. (If you also want nontransposing tabs, select  "Mountain G Ocarina" from the Tablature drop-down and the bottom-most "G" from the Key drop-down.) If you have only sheets, delete the two top staff lines and add two to the bottom; in Figure 4, your new key will be next to the original key, but in the **clockwise** direction.

Case 3a. I am playing my GMO (as a transposing instrument) from a sheet I found on the internet, but the midi backing track that came with sheet is out of tune. has a midi to mp3 converter and midi editor you can use to transpose the midi for nontransposing instruments to one that will be in tune with your transposing GMO sheet. You need to transpose the midi up 7 semitones.
Figure 5. SolMiRe
Click to enlarge in new window

I also use MuseScore, a free, open source, cross-platform music editor to transpose complex midi backing tracks.

Step 1. Open the midi (File>Open)

Step 2. Select "Transpose" from the "Notes" menu.  Agree to transpose the entire score in the next dialog box.

Step 3a. Transpose by Key:  using the Circle of Fifths chart (Figure 4), find the key your GMO music is in and select the (new) key that's next to it in the clockwise direction.
Step 3b. Transpose by Interval: choose "Up a Perfect Fifth" or "Down a Perfect Fourth"
Figure 6. MuseScore.
Click to enlarge in new window

Case 4.  I don't need to accompany anyone on my GMO, but I need to find a more comfortable key to play in.  This method isn't elegant, but often works:  paste music in abc format into the Mandolintab converter and play with the Transpose dropdown choices. You are seeking a result with notes in the range of the GMO and in a key that's easy for you to play.